Some days, I think I live next door to J. Alfred Prufrock and Sweeney and Madame Sosostris. In the depths of a T.S. Eliot poem, I make my bed, turn on the stairs, and ponder when the season will be right for eating peaches. As an English grad student, I ventured into the an Eliot class, unassuming and ignorant of the majority of his writings. Sure, I knew Prufrock and the Magi and the first several lines of The Waste Land:
April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain,
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow—The Waste Land
But, I never understood why “April is the cruellest month.”
What could be so horrid about Spring in bloom, the budding of fruit trees, the dormant tulips and daffodils pushing their way through the loamy earth? The thrust of new life coming forth, but how is this cruel? Spring is the most violent time of year, particularly April. As the rain showers nourish the seeds, the sprouts launch forth from the earth like rockets, leaving a path of destruction. Granted, the violence of Spring is so small that we hardly notice it. But it is there.
Spring reveals the truth that winter sought to hide.
Buried and forgotten, Spring brings to light truth in nature and sometimes our lives too. But truth can be just as sinister and violent as Spring. Truth doesn’t always reside in the flowerbeds of life, but lurks deep in some of the foulest, murkiest places. Just waiting for a chance to rise to the top, and wreck havoc, violence just like Spring waits quietly underneath “forgetful snow.”
So, why do we associate Spring and truth with non-violence and beauty?